By Andrew Wagner-Chazalon
Winter brings laughter and magic to Toronto for the Canadian Opera Company 2020 program which presents two works that are perfect ways to brighten the season.
The enduringly popular Barber of Seville is up first. Rossini’s sprightly comedy is one of the most popular works in opera, with catchy tunes that even the least opera-savvy listener will recognize, if only from cartoons. (How many of us had our first exposure to opera seeing Bugs Bunny conduct Elmer Fudd in Rabbit of Seville?)
This production by Spanish theatre troupe Els Comediants was a smash hit when it was last seen here in 2015. Audiences and critics alike loved the broad, physical comedy and exuberant staging that draws heavily on circus, carnival, and comedia del arte techniques.
This production features COC Ensemble Studio graduate Emily D’Angelo as Rosina and Vito Priante as Figaro, under the baton of Speranza Scappucci, who Opera News has called ‘one of classical music’s brightest stars’.
Barber of Seville runs from January 19 to February 7, 2020.
Canadian Opera Company 2020 Includes Hansel and Gretel
From February 6 to 21, the company presents the magic and folklore of Hansel and Gretel. Like Barber, this is a perfect way to introduce newcomers to opera, with music that draws heavily on folk songs and nursery rhymes. Based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, this is sung in German with English surtitles, but the COC is presenting a special child-friendly matinee sung entirely in English on February 15.
This is a new production directed by Joel Ivany, who is founder and artistic director of Against the Grain Theatre. ATG, as it’s known, is an independent chamber opera company devoted to presenting opera and other works in unconventional settings, such as a Victorian mansion, a dance studio, and a garden.
This production is being seen in the brilliant Four Seasons Centre, but it promises to bring some innovative and unconventional staging elements, including digital storytelling and video projections.
Shows for Young Opera Audiences
With two works like this on the schedule, this is an ideal time to introduce a young friend to the fascinating world of opera. Patrons under the age of 30 can buy tickets for just $22 – and bring a friend of any age for the same price. Most of the Opera Under 30 tickets for Barber of Seville are sold out, but as of this writing there are still tickets available for Hansel and Gretel.
The COC also does a thorough job of presenting information about its shows in order to make opera accessible to newcomers. There are pre-performance chats in the lobby 45 minutes before every mainstage performance (arrive early if you want to sit), as well as special educational events throughout the season.
Also, be sure to check out the free concert series which runs all season long, most Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays at either noon or 5:30 p.m. Ranging from opera to chamber music, jazz to world, these popular concerts are one of the best musical bets in the city.
Spring Season 2020
Looking ahead to the third part of this season, the COC takes a turn toward grandeur, with productions of Verdi’s Aida(April 18 to May 8) and Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman (May 1 to 16).
Aida is typically known for its grand staging, with massive pyramids, gilded temples, and even live animals parading across the stage. This production, which premiered in 2010, takes a much more stripped-down approach, focusing on the story and the gorgeous music.
The Flying Dutchman is a tale of a nightmarish half-life lived at sea, the story of a ship’s captain who is cursed to sail forever unless he can find true love. This production, with its staging nods to classic films like Metropolis, is a perennial favourite last seen in Toronto in 2010.
Andrew Wagner-Chazalon is Editor and CEO at Dockside Publishing. For more great happenings in Muskoka, Georgian Bay, Kawartha, and the Lake Simcoe area, be sure to pick up the 2019 edition of Lakeside magazine. Visit their website at www.docksidepublishing.com.